Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stalker Alert

A google search hit according to

One hopes this is a desperate attempt by his mother, who has just mislaid her address book. Conceivable. Just about. Hopefully.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Advertising – how does it work? While I did quite like the M&S food ads before they got irritating and people started sending them up, I can’t say any one of these highly seductive and beautifully shot exercises in food porn really made me buy anything.

Last Friday Jonathan Ross ate (noisily and messily and very fast) an M&S chocolate pain-au-chocolat-and-butter pudding. The sight was gross, and Jonathan was careful to tell us this pudding was more dangerous to our health than anything Pete Doherty has recently ingested could be. So I rushed out the next day and bought my own Simply Divine Bread and Butter pudding. Not the pain au chocolat version, the ordinary one – I’ve made my own pain au chocolat pudding and definitely prefer a more classic approach.

I specially didn’t read the nutritional info on the pack until the next day. But it is fantastically bad – so bad M&S only gives the info “per half pack” – basically, if you eat the whole pudding (as Jonathan and I did, and you will if you get your mitts on one), the calorie count is just short of 1400. About 100g of fat and 100g of sugar.

Simply divine, though! – totally gets my award for the best bread and butter pudding ever.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The End is Nigh, Part 1

Alex Renton wrote a really interesting article about food price inflation in The Observer last Sunday, speculating that the post WWII era of cheap food in the Western World is ending, due largely to 4 factors – market instability, the growing demand of the ethanol industry for crops previously grown as food, climate change resulting in floods, droughts, etc damaging crop yields, and the growing wealth of Chinese and Indian populations creating a larger demand for meat, which is wildly inefficient to produce in terms of resources.

The one thing we can change quite quickly is the ethanol factor, which is clearly a dead-end. Renton claims that faith in ethanol’s ecological credentials is “largely misplaced” - “Its increasingly voluble critics claim that growing grain and then transforming it into ethanol requires more energy from fossil fuels than ethanol generates.”

Furthermore, “the maize to fill a tank for a 'Chelsea tractor' would feed a family of four for three months. In October the United Nations' spokesman on famine, Jean Ziegler, called the biofuel boom 'a crime against humanity'.”

Ditch ethanol now!

This is clearly a watershed moment, where we are seeing the first effects of global warming on our food supply, mixed up with a clearly mistaken strategy to combat climate change. The imperative is to think cleverer.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

2007 Review

I did this at the end of 2006 so it’s good to continue for 2007:

What was you favourite movie in 2007?

I was going to say Pan’s Labyrinth, but checking back I nominated this for 2006 so I’m going to go with Atonement.

What was your favourite book in 2007?

2007 was not a reading year for me. My book of the year is Patrick O’Brian’s The Nutmeg of Consolation (1991). I’m a fan of his Aubrey and Maturin books and this is the 14th in the series.

What was your favourite song in 2007?

Anything from Arcade Fire’s first two albums, Funeral and Neon Bible will do. However, for the sake of variety and in admiration of their wit I’ll nominate LCD Soundsystem’s North American Scum.

What was your favourite album in 2007?

Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible, no question.

Are you richer or poorer?

A fascinating question, depends on how you look at it.

In 2006 I was unemployed but my flat was rocketing in value – it went up almost 53% in just over a year, so far more than my annual salary would have been.

In 2007 I started a new job, which pays a salary that allows me to service the enormous amounts of debt racked up while unemployed. However, my flat’s value is now in freefall. So who’s to say if I’m richer or poorer?

I suppose the bailiffs aren’t exactly beating my door down yet, so I’m ok.

Thinner or fatter?

Again, rather debatable. I reckon I’m fatter and could choose to tone up and lose some excess belly.

What kept you sane in 2007?

Employment is really good for mental health, strangely! – plus my blog keeps me happy ☺

Which personal accomplishment in 2007 are you most pleased with?

Becoming employed again!

Keeping my little blog going while computer-less!

What was the happiest moment of 2007?

Friends from South Africa visiting.

What was your saddest moment of 2007?

The death of my father at the end of April.

Being burgled end May.

What resolutions have you made for 2008?

I’m increasing my posting average to 12 a month, with a consistency level of between 9 to 15 posts a month.

I will cycle to work.

I will work to continue the improving trend in my finances.

I will replace all the stolen equipment without increasing my levels of debt.

Which bad habit are you most motivated to break?

No procrastination! See it, do it; blog it!

What are you looking forward to in 2008?

Hoo. At the moment, the summer. Let’s hope it’s less wet than last year.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


A few months ago when I last checked my stats, people were curious about Dalek cakes at Marks and Spencer’s. At the time, I didn’t know M&S did Dalek cakes, but now I can confirm a sighting of a chocolate Dalek cake in the Clapham Junction branch. Woo! Very exciting, although I would have preferred a standy-uppy Dalek rather than a lying-down Dalek. Exterminate! Exterminate! Anyways, a possible contender for my very own upcoming birthday.

The fickle public has moved on and now the googling masses can’t get enough of bombs in Balham in WWII. You may remember the Balham tube bomb disaster features in the movie Atonement, and it is indeed based on a true incident, when a bomb damaged a water main and flooded Balham Tube station, where locals were sheltering from the air raid. They all drowned.
Celebrity-wise, my most hits are still on Her Grace the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (rather mysteriously), although the wonderful Keira Knightley is zooming up the hit rate chart.

Which brings me to this pic:

I papped the filming of Atonement on location in central London! From this distance, can’t tell you which one is Keira and/or James McAvoy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Clapham Junction

Commuting again through Clapham Junction brings home just how awful this station – the busiest in Britain and apparently Europe – actually is. It was constructed as a joint venture between competing train companies in 1863 and their conflicting requirements (and joint enthusiasm for cutting costs) must have informed the appalling design of the station – for something this busy, space for passenger orientation is simply inadequate.

Access to all 16 working platforms is through a leaky underpass barely 15 feet wide, with not a single lift or escalator anywhere. Imagine what it is like in rush hour, with people beginning their journeys to work or changing trains. Not to mention, Clapham Junction is a major hub for people making their way to Gatwick Airport.

So I’m pretty thrilled to hear that there are plans to upgrade this station – it’s desperately needed. Hopefully these will go ahead – however, a major plank of the funding is going to be two tower blocks of luxury flats built up over the station. One wonders how commercial these will turn out to be – would you like living over a station with a through-put of 119 trains per hour off-peak? That is, of course, if complaints from locals don’t scupper the development at the planning stage. Also, it has to be said, in this post sub-prime economic apocalypse, it would be a very brave developer who actually went ahead with this!

From the drawings released, the development doesn’t look architecturally distinguished – not anywhere near the standard of the Waterloo or St Pancras Eurostar terminals or the stations on the Jubilee Line extension. However, I suppose this is sarf London and we must be grateful for what we can get!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tamara Drewe

Joanathan Cape, 2007

This graphic novel was originally serialized in The Guardian from September 2005 to December 2006 – I hardly missed an issue; I loved it. However, it was only when I bought the book (published Oct 2007) that I realized the plot was an updated version of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd.

Quite embarrassing as (a) the novel was one of my set texts at school and (b) Posy Simmonds doesn’t exactly disguise her intentions in any way! – “Far from the Madding Crowd” are the first words of her book - the headline of an advert for a writer’s retreat where the action is about to take place.

It goes to show though that one can enjoy Tamara Drewe on its own merits, without any knowledge of Hardy’s original text. But equally, it’s great fun to follow Simmond’s exceptionally imaginative and intelligent recreation of the novel’s plot, characters and even themes.

I particularly like the way she borrows and repeats the novel’s motifs and incidents in a reframed way – for example instead of the cheeky Valentine’s card inflaming Farmer Boldwood, Nicholas Hardiman gets an email (cc’d to Tamara’s two other suitors from her computer by a mischevious village teenager). But for me the most satisfying reuse of a motif is the mad dog herding livestock to destruction – to completely different ends.

While fairly dramatic, it is clear Simmonds restrains Hardy’s wild melodrama somewhat. Ben Sergeant isn’t nearly as wicked a character as Sergeant Troy, although his sulky sexiness does cause trouble for the female characters.

I have to quote Wikipedia’s marvelous line from their plot summary:

“Her [i.e. Bathsheba’s] initial dislike turns to infatuation after he excites her with a private display of expert swordsmanship.”

Quite so.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

All About Eve

All About Eve

“Miss Casswell is an actress, a graduate of the Copacabana School of Dramatic Art.” - George Sanders as Addison Dewitt, a critic, introducing Marilyn Monroe as Claudia Casswell. My favourite line from this movie, which is composed entirely of fantastic lines.

I have wanted to see this movie for ages, and took the opportunity to see it at the Curzon in Mayfair when it came out on re-release just before Christmas. The thought of seeing this remastered old classic (1950) on the silver screen was exciting; slightly disappointing therefore that the Curzon Screen 2 is just about the size of an overgrown domestic plasma screen!

The film richly deserves its classic status, with a wonderful script by Joseph L Mankiewicz and great performances.

I was very struck however by the gender politics on view.

Actresses complain about the lack of good roles for women today; this movie contains 3 totally central female roles. It is the message these roles convey which is odd. The women are the protagonists of the story, with the men virtually oblivious adjuncts to a female cat-fight. In terms of the power structures in the story’s theatre world, however, the men dominate: as playwright; director; producer and critic. The only power available to women in this world is as the star – Bette Davis as Margo Channing is the archetypal diva-bitch.

Margo’s foregoing of a plum role in favour of her relationship with her man is seen as her salvation as a woman. The movie contrasts this with Anne Bancroft’s Eve, whose ruthless ambition is depicted as completely without limits.

Resolutions for 2008

1) If at all possible, I really really really want to replace all the stuff that was stolen last year – my mac powerbook, iPod and camera. But NOT on credit.

2) Last year I resolved to try and post at least 9 times a month. In 2007 I made 113 posts – a monthly average of 9.416. Well done to me, I hit my target! Yippee! BUT – my monthly numbers ranged from zero (August) to 22 (March). So, for 2008, I’m aiming to for a monthly average of 12 posts, with never less than 9 or more than 15 to improve consistency.

3) Finances finances finances – please may 2008 see a turnaround in this area!

In Rainbows

Speaking as someone who parted ways with Radiohead around the time of Kid A (OK Computer being a hot contender for my best album of all time), In Rainbows is absolutely genius. My expectations were not high, but encouraged by the hype over their choice of distribution channels, as well as reviews suggesting this was their most commercial attempt for quite a while, I took a punt on the CD. I’ve played it back to back all week. I’m sure my neighbours are going completely crazy. Ah well, at least it’s a change from my previous obsession with Arcade Fire!

As I didn’t download this last year due to an ongoing computer absence, and as the cheap CD version was only released at the beginning of January, this is definitely my album of the year (2008). It will really take a lot to beat this.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Quote London

Rosie Boycott, in ES Magazine, 4/1/08:

“Cities use up 75 per cent of the world’s resources and London alone uses the environmental resources of an area 120 times its size – equivalent to all the productive land in Britain. Londoners spend £11 billion on food a year and 80 per cent of it is imported from abroad.”


Happy New Year!

I’m feeling a bit perkier this morning. Hopefully my chronic cold is finally on the way out (had it since 20 December). At any rate, my bio-active Echinacea tincture made with live kombucha culture arrived today, so here’s hoping!

The cold was grim and depressing – it keeps coming back and spreading around; I’ve had it everywhere – chest, throat, nose, ears. Eyes, etc etc etc.

Back at work, we’ve had major server problems so between the coled and server issues I’ve not done any blogging.

Into 2008 . . .